45 million fines levied for breach of fire safety rules in forests in Jan-June 2011

MOSCOW, August 23 (Itar-Tass) —— About 45 million-ruble fines were levied for a breach of fire safety rules in forests in Russia in the first half of this year, deputy head of the Federal Forestry Service Alexander Panfilov told a Tuesday press conference.

He said that the charges were brought against 7,440 individuals and 1,021 officials. “A total of 6,964 fines of about 45 million rubles were levied,” he said.

Panfilov also said that the Federal Forestry Service had submitted a bill tightening punishment for violations of fire safety laws in forests to the Justice Ministry for registration.

The amendments to the Administrative Code make punishable the simple presence in a forest during a wildfire season and the setting of bonfires.

“People will be fined just for visiting a forest in a wildfire season. The fine will amount from 300 to 1,000 rubles for individuals, from 3,000 to 5,000 rubles for officials and from 30,000 to 50,000 rubles for legal entities. The fine for setting bonfires will amount from 1,500 to 2,000 rubles for individuals, from 7,000 to 12,000 rubles for officials and from 50,000 to 120,000 for legal entities,” Panfilov said.

“About 16,000 inspectors will provide control over the compliance with the fire safety rules,” he said.

The State Duma may approve the bill in the autumnal session, he said.

Prosecutors filed almost 2,000 lawsuits demanding fire safety measures in forests and populated localities after the massive wildfires of summer 2010, the Prosecutor General’s Office said.

The unprecedentedly hot summer caused the wildfire disaster in a number of Russian regions in the second half of July. More than 7,000 wildfires with the total area exceeding 430,000 hectares were blazing in the Central, Volga and Urals Federal Districts. The fire damaged 134 populated localities, including eight burned to the ground. More than 5,000 people were evacuated from the fire zone. More than 50 people, including firemen, died. A state of emergency was declared in seven regions.

In the opinion of the Emergency Situations Ministry, about 90% of fires broke out through people’s fault. Carelessness, littering and many other human factors contributed to the spread of forest fires in many Russian regions.

More than 15,000 violations of law were exposed by prosecutors and more than 1,000 individuals faced disciplinary charges, the prosecutors said.

On December 24 the Federation Council approved a bill, which was bound to prevent wildfires similar with those in Russia in summer 2010.

The bill amended the Russian Forestry Code with provisions, which clearly defined powers of various agencies in fire safety control and rights of foresters.

Specialized agencies of federal, regional and municipal authorities were entrusted with the right to put out wildfires and to involve volunteers in fire-fighting efforts.

Current laws entrust local authorities with the prevention and extinguishing of wildfires. The only exception is Moscow where fire safety is supervised by the Federal Forestry Agency.

Funds for the prevention and extinguishing of wildfires come to Russian regions as subsidies from the Natural Resources and Ecology Ministry. Each region holds a tender to select the organization, which will put out wildfires within the regional limits.

The measures cut the number of wildfires in Russia this year.

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